Route 7 Review - Page 114

Bones and Stays By Katacha Díaz I puzzled over long piece of string that fell onto my lap when I opened my grandmother’s monthly letter. Dinner was ready and while I waited for my husband to come home from the lab, I poured myself a glass of wine and turned on the stereo. The hauntingly beautiful sound of Andean cane flutes and harps filled the room. I curled up on the couch to read Mamama’s letter with the latest family news and gossip from Miraflores, a suburb of Lima where I grew up. I have a small encargo, an errand, she wrote, my favorite corset has seen better days. A firm control foundation corset is a must have garment for the glamorous and fashionable señoras, older women, and she could not find a store in Lima that sold them any longer. Spanx girdles were in vogue; a wardrobe staple of the younger women, but Mamama still preferred an old fashioned corset with stays and bones. The string was my elderly grandmother’s waist measurement. How very ingenious, I thought. In addition to the string, Mamama had also enclosed a clipping of a corset from what appeared to be a circa-1950s Sears, Roebuck & Company catalogue, her all-time favorite store selling “Made In USA” quality products. Truth be told, shopping was one of my least favorite activities, but since I’d been entrusted with the task of finding the perfect vintage style corset for my beloved grandmother, I was eager and ready to get it over with. We started out with Sears, Mamama’s preferred USA store, where my husband went to check out the tools and electronic gadgets, while I made a beeline to women’s lingerie. “I’m looking for a corset,” I told the young saleswoman. She looked puzzled so I showed her the sepia-tone clipping. “It’s for my elderly grandmother who lives in South America,” I announced. She consulted her supervisor and informed me Sears no longer carried corsets, only girdles, and nothing like the one in the clipping. The next stop was The Bon Marché, a local treasure in Seattle, where the women’s foundations department was located in the store’s basement. “May I help you?” asked the friendly middle-aged saleswoman. “I’m in search of an old-fashioned corset, the kind that has bones and stays,” I responded and showed her the clipping, “it’s for my grandmother.” “We don’t sell many of these anymore but we keep a few on-hand,” she said, smiling and led the way to the sales rack, tucked away in the back corner. It held a small selection of vintage looking corsets in various sizes and colors, similar to the one in the clipping. To my surprise and delight, my grandmother’s size and preferred color were in stock. The foundation garment shopping mission accomplished, we returned to the University District to have lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, a few blocks away from our student apartment. For several weeks I had imagined my first afternoon back home in Miraflores; I saw myself at my family’s Sunday luncheon sipping a Pisco sour cocktail and nibbling Tomasita’s homemade empanadas, and spicy beef heart grilled kabobs, anticuchos. On the day I left for Peru, I waited in line to check luggage at Sea-Tac Airport with my husband. “You must be so excited,” he said. I laughed. “Of course, that’s an understatement!” A few hours after arriving at my uncle and aunt’s house in Miraflores I had unpacked and sorted out the family’s gifts. I laid out corset encargo on my bed along with the letter, string, and clipping. Mamama appeared somewhat distraught when she saw vintage steel boned corset